Hello Dear Ones!
It's March, Women's History Month. This month—declared as such by Congress in 1987—is one that recognizes the contributions made over time by American women. President Jimmy Carter (1980) designated National Women's History Week as March 2-8. You can read more about how this month came to be here. International Women's Day is held annually on March 8.
When I think of this week (and this month) I think of empowerment. A long line of women came before me to ensure that I would have not only the right to vote, but more choices to live the life of my dreams. Their actions empower me to claim my strength, harness my talents, and bring my vision to the world. Wow!
Hold on a minute!
As I reread the words I've just written, I experience mixed messages moving through my mind. Alternately, chills up and down my spine (empowerment!), shortness of breath, and a bit of heart racing (whoah!) One voice says, "Yes, go baby, go!" Another says, "Whew, that's a lot! Wait a moment here."
I imagine many of you might feel this tension too—between what you could do and what you might realistically have the energy, time or mental energy for. I know I certainly do, all the time. Like a seesaw, I go up and down with what I get excited about and what I'd like to do, balanced out with what is realistic for me.
This is all good noticing! Noticing the tension between hopes and dreams and what is physically/emotionally possible. As busy women today, we play multiple roles. And, because we do, we have a myriad of responsibilities to attend to each day. I remember thinking to myself many years ago, "Really, how much can one person do?" At the time, I'm sure I was reflecting on my life, finding myself overextended, trying to do and be it all. I was juggling a lot of balls and doing an OK job of it, but I think I was also deluding myself believing that I could--should—be able to do anything I put my mind to.
• Do you tend to expect a lot of yourself?
• Do you expect even more of yourself than you do of others?
• Do you easily take on responsibilities that are not necessarily yours?
• Do you pick up the slack for others?
• Do you tend to take on more than you should, ignoring your wise self that cautions you against doing so?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may have what I call "wild expectations" of yourself. You have a tendency to think "I can do that!" about many more things than you are actually capable of doing. The truth is you can do just about anything you want (thanks, in part, to the women's movement), but, perhaps not all at the same time.
I'll tell you honestly, now that I am empty nesting, this dis-ease has flared big time, but now it circulates around my professional life. I have folders and legal pads full of ideas about books I could write. One time, I even had the grand idea that I could write an entire series of 30-day guidebooks (like My Deepest Me), enough to fill an entire shelf. I actually came up with 30+ titles I could write. Wow! Am I creatively super charged or am I a bit delusional?
* Do you have expectations of yourself in any arena of your life that are unreasonable?
* Do you push yourself to meet these expectations?
* And do you feel badly about yourself when you don't meet them?
A kinder, gentler way
There is a better way to live, one that is rooted in reality and the truth of your humanity. You are one person. You can only do so much. You can only be expected to do so much.
If we are to honor our time and energy, we may have to say "what is." To admit (and I think this is the most difficult part) that you simply just can't do something. You simply don't have it in you. To accept that you might move at a slower pace than others. To acknowledge that right now you may have limitations (health, finances, lack of support, responsibilities) to do everything your mind says you could or should do. Or to do what others expect of you, too.
It's good and wise to acknowledge your unique story and just tell it like it is. Let yourself off the hook and be real, be truthful, be honest with yourself and others about how you are feeling. Do just this and go from there. This is the perfect place to begin. Vow to have more realistic expectations for yourself going forward.
Then, ask yourself the most wonderful question in the world. "Knowing this, what is the kindest thing I can do for myself in this moment?"
This short video explains more:
Honor where you find yourself right now
I've realized that I can't do what I used to be able to do. "I do not have the "band width" for this" is my new self-empowering mantra.
How is this self-empowering? By saying it, I am acknowledging the truth of my current condition. I am stepping into my power to say, "Enough is enough." Or, "This is good enough." And believing it!
With good self-awareness, you can begin to acknowledge the truth of your experience, and make excellent, caring choices for yourself. This is what living more kindly and gently with yourself is all about.
Perhaps "living gently" is another manifestation of women's empowerment. Woo-hoo! Happy Women's History Week (and Month), dear friend. I'd say we are still making history by furthering the cause of self-compassion!
The Year of Living Gently
Take a breath, and drop into a kinder, gentler place within yourself.